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How Does a Neon Sign Work?

August 31, 2021 2 min read

Making a neon sign takes a lot of skill and years of practice, in order to create beautiful designs that you can use for your home or business. While you receive a finished sign that comes ready to hang or mount to the wall, your neon sign has undergone an exciting journey to reach that point. Making a neon glass sign is a combination of technical know-how and creative glass bending, and here at Neon Creations we do it all by hand!

If you’ve ever wondered how your neon sign glows so brightly and in such a vibrant colour, here we give you a little insight into how a neon sign works.

neon glass blowing

The anatomy of a neon sign

Neon signs are primarily made up of glass tubes. Our tubes are typically 5ft in length, but are also available in 4ft and 10ft lengths, and there are a great range of diameters from 8mm up to 20mm. We generally use 8mm and 10mm tubes for most of the neon signs we create, but it can depend on the colour you’ve chosen.

The glass tubes are then attached to electrodes at both ends and connected to a transformer. When all the parts are ready to be assembled, you have a choice of backing options which typically include acrylic cases or panels, but there are other choices too!

How does a neon sign get its glow? 

That unique glow created by a neon sign is incredibly eye-catching and vibrant, which is what makes them so popular as a decorative piece for your home or place of work.

An alternating current helps to create enough energy for the neon atoms to separate, and as they are drawn towards to electrodes, they collide with each other and increase in energy. Once the atoms become neutral again, they release a particle of light. This is what creates that recognisable glow.

neon sign workshop

How do you get different colours?

Neon signs use a range of noble gases in their design, which are all odourless and colourless. Noble gases are typically found in the air we breathe, so they are completely safe.

The traditional orange-red colour that is largely associated with neon signs comes from neon gas itself. However, you can create other colours by using other gases. Argon will create blue; helium glows pink and krypton will glow green. A mixture of gases can be used to create different colours, or even to create a multicoloured sign.

neon sign workshop

You can learn more about how a neon sign is made by signing up for our neon sign making workshop, which gives you the chance to get involved and see more of our amazing glass shop.